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J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2000 Jan;6(1):1-11.

Frequency and duration of inattentive behavior after traumatic brain injury: effects of distraction, task, and practice.

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  • 1Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA 19141, USA.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with impairments of attention, most typically measured through tests of information processing, or by subjective symptom endorsement by patients, families, and clinicians. We have previously shown increased rates of off-task behavior among patients with TBI versus controls as defined by videotaped records of independent work in distracting environments. In this research, we report on a more detailed method of coding such videotaped records which allows measurement of the precise number of off-task behaviors, their durations, and their relationship to distracting events. Using this method, we studied 20 patients with recent moderate-to-severe TBI and 20 demographically comparable controls as they performed independent work tasks while being subjected to controlled distracting events. This research confirms that patients are markedly less attentive than controls both in the presence of distractions and in their absence, that distractions have an influence on off-task behavior in both groups, and that the disruptive impact of distractors wanes relatively quickly for controls but not for patients. The duration of distraction produced by various classes of distracting events appeared similar for patients and controls, although the power to detect differences in behavioral duration between groups was limited. The pattern of inattentiveness among patients showed minimal relationship to measures of injury severity within this sample.

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